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We see this refrain (or its equivalent) in Scripture over 75 times.

We see it personally concerning the loss of loved ones. Whether it was by their choice or someone else’s. Whether it was through death or relational conflict. We see moments where the loss is personal and God’s response is the same... “I will never leave you nor forsake you...” (Deut 31:6,8)

We see it prophetically. It can be a lonely place when God has positioned you to do a work that will prompt others to do good that seeks justice, rescues the oppressed, defends the orphan, & pleads for the widow even when culture, politics, and the favorable responses of people say otherwise. And even when others don’t understand what God is saying or showing, and you feel unheard and misunderstood, God's answer is the same..."I will never leave you nor forsake you..." (Jer 1:8)

We see it professionally. After the new hire honeymoon is over. After the great idea goes south during implementation. After you made an earnest but not repetitive mistake. After the layoff hit your desk or even after you were justifiably terminated. After being looked over for a promotion or receiving a warped evaluation. After getting project orders that you feel ill-equipped to perform. The answer is the same..."I will never leave you nor forsake you..." (1 Chron 28:1-20)

We see it concerning provision. When you live generously but the windows of heaven seem shut. When family members take advantage of your heart. When your kids are looking for gifts under the Christmas tree. When you ponder on what life would be like if you were able to meet all your needs and maybe even some wants. God responds during that frustration the same way..."I will never leave you nor forsake you..." (Heb 13:5)

During this season, we are reminded, that no matter what we are going through, we serve Emmanuel. He is God with us. Through personal loss, prophetic loneliness, professional distress, and provisionally lack. He is still Emmanuel. Where do you need Emmanuel to step in today and remind you that He is still present and in control?

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Tonight we were driving down the street and Charity, my middle daughter, was in the midst of telling me a story about something that happened in the Trainer's Room today after track practice when "Jesus We Love You" by Isabel Davis came on. She immediately stopped, said "this is my song," and turned it on full blast. The next song came on and she kept singing. And then the next song continued the pattern.

I thought to myself, parenting is a journey full of mistakes, misfortunes, and moments where we wish we got a do-over. And although I've experienced all of those, I am thankful that through all of that my girls learned the power of worship, prayer, and serving. They are a glaring reminder to me, especially at this time of year, that parenting is not solely about what we

can give them monetarily, although that has its place. As Christian parents, it is most incumbent on us to give them a language to communicate with God that is louder than everything else that is screaming at them in society.

In two days, and truthfully some of it has already started, the season of "parent guilt" for some us will become very loud. You might wish you can do this or do that. You might be tempted to take out loans or max out credit cards to buy gifts you cannot afford. For some, it won't be that extreme. For some, you will wait in a line for a holiday food box or Christmas donation. Before you get too down...let me encourage you. I've been there. More than one year. And more than two. While it is painful now, remember that every gift you give them they will outgrow, except for the gift that speaks to their spirit.

I'm not saying parents should not want to give their children presents at this time of year. You should! That has its place. However, before the parent guilt starts I want you to know that whether you give them one present, five, or fifteen, the things that they will remember the most have no monetary value. They cannot be bought or sold. They can only be taught and shared.

This Thanksgiving. This Christmas. This holiday season. If you can't give your kids anything else, please make sure to give them Jesus. He will outlast everything else.

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My youngest daughter had her first gymnastic meet of the season. At each meet, the goal is to get as close to an all-around score of 40 as possible. For my daughter's level, anything lower than a 36 is, to say the least, not a reason to rejoice. This means that she needs to average nothing less than a 9.0 on any event. She started the meet off on the uneven bars; not her strongest event. After her foot slipped from the bar, she was only able to earn a score of 8.6. We sank in our seats as we knew the chances of her averaging anything above a 36 for the night seemed dismal. We sat through the next three rotations and at the end of the evening she placed third all-around and earned a 36.75 all-around score! She went from a rough start and excelled at all the other events for the night. Ministry, likes this meet, has some difficult moments but here are a few things that made a difference for her tonight that I think can help us.

First, she refused to let one mistake determine her mood. Ministry is full of quick decisions. Submit this. Post this. Say that. Call this person. Disregard this complaint. Listen to that feedback. Sometimes those quick decisions work out well but sometimes they cause a "slip" and we wish we could take them back. When those quick decisions cause a slip, we cannot allow it to alter our mood. We must be willing to try again and move on.

Second, her coach stood beside her telling her to shake it off. It is critical to have mentors in ministry that don't hold mistakes over your head. Everyone has said something they wish they could take back or missed a moment that they wished they clutched onto. A good coach knows when the weight of our own mistakes is already on our shoulders and, instead of adding more, encourages us to shake it off and move on.

Third, she moved on to what was in front of her. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally. She had to focus on the next events - beam, floor, and then vault - or else she would have continued to make more mistakes that evening causing her overall score to drop more. We cannot focus on what was. Only what is. If you make a mistake, keep the overall goal in mind, shake it off, and keep aiming to what is in front of you.

Ministry is fast-paced and sometimes things change from moment-to-moment. There will be evenings when the perfect 40 is just out of reach. Lead anyway! Don't leave the meet! No matter the mistake that matter how far out of reach it seems...the goal is the same. To lead in such a way that brings glory to God and points people to Jesus. When we mess up, and inevitably we will, we cannot afford to stay there too long. Refuse to let one mistake determine your mood. Listen to the voice of an encouraging coach. And then proceed to the next thing you can do to move successfully toward the ultimate goal.

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